The David Owsley Museum of Art at Ball State University had a humble beginning—a small collection displayed in high school corridors. Today, it has a collection of nearly 11,000 works of art, thanks to the remarkable generosity of multiple generations of the Ball family, among other donors.
“This family has followed through for the Museum of Art with the large vision of Frank Ball and his brothers,” says Peter Blume, museum director.
The museum’s genesis was prompted by a group of women as a community endeavor in 1892, when they formed the Art Students League. They provided the impetus for a public collection of art in Muncie, and with the Muncie Art Association, they formed a collection that they first displayed in local high school corridors.
This collection was later absorbed into a gallery in the first library (now North Quad) for the Eastern Division, Indiana State Normal School (now Ball State University). When the Fine Arts Building was constructed in 1935, the collection, along with that of Frank C. Ball, one of the five Ball brothers, was moved into galleries built specifically to exhibit them. These are the nucleus around which the collection has been built.
The collection’s development has had many friends and donors. A constant for more than 70 years has been the remarkable generosity of multiple generations of the Ball family.
The Margaret Ball Petty Memorial Fund supports the acquisition of works of art for the museum’s collection and funds educational programs.
Established with funds from the Margaret Ball Petty Foundation, the Ball Brothers Foundation, and the Petty family, the Edmund F. Petty Memorial Lecture Fund makes possible an annual lecture delivered by a distinguished artist or art historian.
The Lucy Ball Owsley Fund was established in the memory of Margaret Petty’s sister, the eldest daughter of Frank C. Ball. The fund finances acquisitions, conservation of works of art, educational program, and equipment purchases.
David T. Owsley, the son of Alvin and Lucy Ball Owsley, has served as curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the Victoria and Albert Museum; and the Museum of Art, Carnegie Institute. Owsley’s gifts to the Ball State Museum of Art for more than four decades have included works from the Americas, Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Pacific Islands.
“The museum’s scope—as a good university museum’s should be—is truly universal today as a result of Mr. Owsley’s thoughtful gifts and sagacious guidance of our acquisitions program,” says Blume.
The John and Janice Fisher Glass Endowment Fund supports future glass acquisitions for the museum. John Fisher was the former president and chairman of Ball Corporation. Janice Fisher, who was active in civic affairs, was the daughter of Edmund B. Ball, one of the five original Ball brothers.
The David Owsley Museum of Art is an exceptional educational resource to have at any university. It is, thanks to the longtime generosity of the members of this remarkable family, a cultural center for all of east central Indiana and among the most well-developed collegiate collections in the United States.
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